As part of our sustainability strategy, we have set 6 priority areas to make sure Churchill College operates in a sustainable and responsible way. One of those areas is Carbon and Energy.

Churchill College is on track to meet its goals of cutting carbon emissions directly produced by the College to zero by 2030. Our energy use is a key part of this goal. This means working to be more energy efficient, and finding more sustainable sources of energy.

Sustainability is a real priority for Churchill College; it’s globally essential that we adapt, and doing what we can as a college is important and underpins a lot of what we do. Churchill College is self-funding the work, and prioritizing where we can make the biggest impact the fastest.

Our Sustainability Strategy breaks down our activity around Carbon and Energy further, but to explore the area in more detail, we spoke to Tom Boden, Estates and Operations Director, for an update on progress.

Insulation – more than just windows

Our Estates team have identified where the biggest difference can be made in the shortest time. There’s a full programme of works intended to get us to our goal, which is a significant undertaking and investment.

A lot of what is done isn’t visible or obvious. Things like lagging pipes and insulating roofs make a huge impact on reducing heat loss. Addressing this makes a much bigger difference than the seemingly more “obvious” things like double and triple glazing. Glazing works help, and is in our programme of works, but we’re working through a sequenced plan based on where the biggest gains can be made

We’re using state of the art insulation technologies to reduce heat loss. We’re doing some work on the undergraduate accommodation currently; where the bay windows need maintaining or repairing, we’re using that opportunity to add insulation to the flat roofs above. Much more heat is lost from the roof of the window bays than through the windows themselves, so this should make a noticeable difference for residents.

We’ve got several years’ worth of thermal imaging which have helped inform the process, and we continue to monitor the site to make sure we can be most efficient in our efforts.

Energy generation – investing in-house

Lagged pipes and insulated roofs don’t make for great photos, but we’ve got some great drone footage of the solar panels which we’ve installed at the College. These panels were designed and built in-house, through our team which we’ve trained up, and using this expertise has helped us do it much more cost-effectively. This means it should pay for itself within 5 years but with a 15-18 year lifespan and guarantee.

In 2018 we used approximately 750,000 kWh of electricity, and the panels we have installed so far generate around 200,000 kWh per year. We’ll be doing another installation to South Court, which will provide a further 100,000 kWh. Everything we generate we use on-site.  As we move off gas, our electricity consumption will increase (albeit minimally because of the insulation works), so this helps off-set that rise. Ultimately, we’re aiming for around a third of our electricity being self-generated.

The next steps in this area could include a major battery installation to store solar power. It is worth noting that energy prices have increased substantially so while what we have generated ourselves saved the College some money on fuel bills, the rate at which energy prices have risen outpaced that. But it does make a big difference, and the battery project could help by providing a way for us to hold energy in reserve.

We’re moving the College to a point where it no longer uses natural gas as quickly as possible. We’ve almost completed removing gas from all campus Postgraduate housing and we are proud to say that no gas boilers have been installed since 2019, everything has been swapped to heat pump technology. Reducing our gas use improves our carbon footprint significantly but it only works with significant improvements in insulation.

Over the next 3 years we’ll have completed the work on postgraduate housing, and be well into the undergraduate housing, continuing our work to remove fossil fuels.

Waste – reducing our impact

In a single year the College generates over 100 tonnes of waste which is entirely either recycled or used to produce power. None of our waste enters landfill. All our cooking oil is recycled and the new compactors which we installed are working even better than hoped.

Previously we had HGVs arriving twice a day to take rubbish away, but with compactors they only need to come once every three weeks. That’s a 42-fold reduction, which not only cuts down traffic congestion on the roads but also means less fuel is used. We also do extensive composting on-site. Overall we are a very lean site for waste, but we also encourage everyone to do their bit when it comes to sorting their recyclables.

Monitoring and measurement – moving towards targets

We’ve got over 100 rooms within College set up with environmental sensors, providing us with data and information about energy use and environmental conditions, to help us plan and act. We’ve got a lot of students taking part with sensors in their living spaces, who can get access to their own data if they’re interested. The sensors were developed by Churchill Fellow, Anna-Maria Kypraiou and Head of Buildings and Capital Projects, Michael Doyle, so again we’re really tapping into in-house expertise.

Our Sustainability Strategy sets out key targets against which we’re measured, and we’re making good progress right now.

Skills – investing for the future

We’ve now got trained in-house Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessors, which mean that it’s quicker and easier for us to identify and prioritise areas to focus our environmental improvement work. We’ve increased our recruitment based around energy and sustainability skills, so for instance many of our Apprentices have environmental sustainability at the heart of their roles. Whether they’re working with biodiversity in the College gardens, or working on heat pumps with our Maintenance teams, there’s a real focus on the skills which we need to take us forward, and the skills which are going to be essential for the future.

Having on-site expertise is really valuable. The solar panel project is a good example of that but we also work to support people working with the new technologies and processes we’re installing. For instance, all housekeepers have been trained in how to use the new compactors, to make sure everyone is confident in operating the systems.

Indirect carbon emissions – working with suppliers

We’re aiming to reduce our indirect carbon emissions – such as those which are produced by suppliers – to zero by 2038. This includes any College investments, where we’ve already eliminated meaningful fossil fuel exposure and hold no active funds with more than 1% exposure.

When we’re procuring goods or services with suppliers, we ensure that the whole supply chain can evidence their commitment to sustainability. So for instance, our laundry supplier is a firm that only uses electric vehicles. We also try to work with local suppliers, to reduce the carbon miles involved. A lot of our food is seasonal and sourced from local producers where possible. We have direct commercial relationships with several local farms in Cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties.

More questions? There’s a lot more activity happening across the site around the other areas of our Sustainability Strategy, particularly around Ecology and Biodiversity. We’ll provide further updates but if you’ve got any questions or want to know more about the Sustainability Strategy and how to support Churchill College’s work in this area, contact us at